I stood in front of the mirror but could no longer recognize my reflection. Ironic, isn’t it? You can look at yourself, think to yourself. and speak for yourself for years and in the blink of an eye, you can lose yourself. I was 15 when I was “diagnosed” with anxiety and about 16 when it turned into depression. I am nearly 18 now and if it weren’t for that unrecognizable reflection and getting support, I don’t know where I would be. I am nearly 18 now happy, and healthy.

The first time I noticed my anxiety was my sophomore year at Citrus Valley High School. I took out my pencil and began to take the exam but as soon as I arrived at the question it was as if I had forgotten how to read. I had studied all night for preparation and now was the time to earn that A grade but I couldn’t breathe. The pencil I was writing with turned into a drumstick and had been tapping my desk at what seemed to be 90 mph. I had to get up, I could not contain the amount of pressure weighing on my chest and shoulders, so I did. After discussing my issues with my teacher he told me I would be allowed more test time and a private testing room with students who struggle similarly, for that I was extremely thankful.

By the end of my sophomore year, I had begun experiencing at least 2 anxiety attacks a week. From not breathing to tapping objects to crying, I was a mess. Summer went by and after the first 3 months of my junior year, I decided to go on to independent study and start seeing a therapist. As much as I loved independent study it may not be the best solution for everyone struggling with similar issues, Reging had pointed this out to me. As for therapy, Regina questioned me with the same series of questions weekly, she tracked my progress, but most of all she had cared. She paid attention when I would curse, cry, laugh and she was helping me fix myself. When you have nowhere to be and no one besides your parents to see you can feel isolated, almost like your in your own world with your own issues, I had realized I needed to include a therapist into my lonely world at this point in time. At first, it was hard to open up and pinpoint an issue that wasn’t direct until I realized the issue was me, her questions helped me see that. I had allowed the anxiety to take over myself, my perception, and my emotions but I was not going to allow myself to stay like that, I needed change and my therapist guided me to it.

It was February of 2019 when that change finally happened. I woke up ready for the day, not in fear of the potential stress and worry it could hold, like usual. I looked in that mirror and I recognized myself for the first time in months; I had rosiness to my cheeks and my eyes were blue rather than gray, this day I knew that the dreadful therapy and self-acknowledgment was finally starting to pay off. It was as if I had dove underneath waves and had been trapped for months, crashing with every new wave that hurled in and drowning on repeat, but at this moment it felt like I had finally received my gasp of air. I walked down the stairs to my parents, I hugged them both, and said, “thank you both, not just for seeking help but also for not giving up on me when even I had.” They welcomed me into their securing embrace and reassured that they would always accept me for who I was and explained that all they ever wanted was their sweet, happy daughter back and shortly saw me off to school.

It is currently September of 2019 and I have never felt this happy and healthy, not since age 14 at least. Every day I wake up and I am grateful for the life I have been given. I still have rough days but everyone does. Emotions are normal and unfortunately, typically uncontrollable; getting nervous and slightly tapping is okay. What’s not okay is allowing issues, big or small, to strip you of who you are and make you forget the things you enjoy, compelling you to stop having hope for the day or every day, that is where the line is drawn and help is needed. Seeing a therapist is something I can see myself keeping within my routine because of how it allowed me to refind myself while also giving me someone to help carry my load. She allowed me to speak, yell, curse, cry, whatever I needed to do to feel okay, she accepted without judgment and provided comfort. Talking to someone about my issues showed me that just because I feel lonely, that doesn’t mean that I’m alone. I do fear falling back into the hole I was once trapped in, however, I know now that if I do I have the will & support necessary to resurface again.

I am not ashamed of my struggles with anxiety and depression because I have learned to cope, I have learned it is normal to feel like you’ve lost your mind at times, as long as you know where to find it. I have socialized more this year than any other and yes, meeting people is great but knowing the person you are introducing is also a great feeling that had become foreign to e. If it wasn’t for my family having hope when I couldn’t and finding myself with my therapist I don’t know where I would be but I can assure that this version of me is here to stay. Having hope, appreciation and a positive outlook on my life again is something that slipped through my grasp in what felt like seconds, resurfacing through the waves pulling me down took what felt like a lifetime. It is necessary to take care of yourself, for yourself and with yourself; This is the only life you’ve got and because of that nothing will stop me from living mine.